Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins: My Take

20.07.05 – By Kevin Kincade: Some things in life are a mixed blessing. Originally, I was going to watch this fight with friends as it happened; but as a wise man once said, “If you want to hear God laugh, make a plan.” Fortunately for me, my friends taped the fight and gave me the tape. In the time between Saturday night and the time I got to watch the tape, I was able to read articles and posts concerning the bout and knew there was a bit of a question as to who won. Being the “problem solver”, as my fiancé’ likes to call me, I got out my note pad and prepared to review the tape over and over again to decide for myself exactly what transpired on the night of July 16th. What I saw caused me to immediately come to two conclusions: I had overestimated Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins had overestimated himself.

Two facts about the fight are obvious: Bernard waited too long to get started and Jermain Taylor didn’t wait long enough to take his shot at the title. This fight was sold on the premise that Taylor was the heir apparent to Hopkins’ throne and the torch was about to be passed from great old king to great new king. Neither fighter looked “great” on this night..

First, let’s look at Taylor. To be kind, Taylor looked amateurish; rushing in, throwing overhand right after overhand right at a target that almost always ducked under the “Tim Witherspoon-esque” punch with ease. It was obvious that Bernard’s refined defense totally baffled and befuddled the “heir to the throne”. Instead of adapting his game plan and learning from the situation at hand, Taylor kept doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. The great ones, or those who would be great have the innate ability to adjust in the ring, depending on the situation. Taylor showed no such implication. This, of course, can be chalked up to inexperience as many experts pointed out before the fight.

The second thing I noticed about “Bad Intentions” in the early rounds was that he was always more than willing to clinch whenever Hopkins countered effectively; and clinch with all the ferociousness of a Grizzly Bear. I deduced two possible reasons for his lack of willingness to trade with the champ, when challenged. Either his corner had instructed him to do just that in preparation for the fight or he didn’t want to exchange blows with Hopkins unless, he initiated the salvo. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the Arturo Gattis and Micky Wards of the world; but I like to think that if a young man wants to be world champion, he’d be willing to mix it up a little and effectively, fistically “tell” the crown wearer, “It’s my turn to be champ and I’m taking this from you!” His lack of desire to swap licks with the average punching Hopkins leads me to believe he doesn’t believe in his chin that much. It was apparent Taylor’s defense is defective; maybe his whiskers are too.

At this point some of you are obviously thinking that Taylor exchanged plenty of times with Hopkins and tied him up after landing his punches because that’s smart boxing. After all, “hit and don’t be hit” is the name of the game. True. Taylor did fight and intelligent fight for his limited amount of experience. And to his credit, he did show braveness in there with Hopkins. In the late rounds, when stunned, he did swing back; that shows he has heart…..a plus. However, he also lost the last three rounds easily due to Hopkins attack and his own exhaustion….a minus. A 26 year old should be able to outlast even an excellently conditioned 40 year old.

Now, let’s look at Hopkins. As I had stated earlier, it’s obvious that Hopkins waited too long to apply the kind of pressure he needed to win rounds decisively. Two of the first 5 rounds could have gone either way with both men playing chess. Personally, I scored the first round even due to the fact that neither fighter really took the initiative or appeared more dominant. It was apparent from the outset that the cagey old veteran was looking to set up his green counterpart with the counter right hand. In my opinion, he wasted too much time looking for this particular shot. As Roy Jones alluded to during his analysis, B-Hop was looking to knock out Taylor in the later rounds by slowly wearing him down with pot-shot after pot-shot until the young man finally caved. That’s very one-dimensional thinking for such a multi-dimensional fighter as Hopkins, which leads me to believe he grossly underestimated Taylor. In short, “X” made a veterans mistake, the same kind Larry Holmes made against Michael Spinks the first time around. It’s good to be confident; but overconfidence will get you every time, and it got Bernard on Saturday.

I scored the fight 116-114 for Taylor; but felt sorry for Bernard that 15-rounders are no longer a part of the championship format. If this fight had been scheduled for three more rounds, Taylor never would have heard the final bell. Emmanuel Steward aptly noted in his post fight comments that it is easy to feel the guy who finished stronger won the fight; but when going back and looking at the round by round scoring to find out the opposite is true. B-Hop finished stronger and left viewers with the impression that he was the man; but as another author on this web-site stated, he “frittered” away his title by giving too much room for doubt in the early rounds.

I was not impressed with Jermain Taylor or Bernard Hopkins in this fight. Hopkins should have known better than to leave that many rounds in doubt, depending on a knock out and Taylor looked just as green and unpolished as his critics have stated. Boxing is about Star-power as TVKO’s crew so aptly put it and Jermain Taylor may or may not have it. One thing he won’t have for long is the title if he doesn’t hone his skills or get a corner who can.

If the rematch comes off in October, I will not be surprised if Bernard knocks Taylor out within 9 rounds. Bernard has shown he learns from his mistakes. The same cannot be said for Taylor. Of course, maybe I’m being too hard on this young man, who only has 24 pro fights under his belt; but if he wants to keep that belt, he better become a better student than he was Saturday night. He may have “passed” the class; but he’s a long way from “passing” the professor.

So, who really won? Nobody.

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